Yes, it is a learned habit. You can be surrounded by people who are negative, who have no optimism for the future, or just flat out suck the fun out of everything, but you can still keep a smile on your face. Some of it is a personality trait and/or lack of a chemical issue in your brain. Some of my family members struggle with things like depression and bi-polar disorder. But I do firmly believe that you can train yourself to react differently, or at least regroup quickly when life hands you something less than favorable.
For me, I am not sure exactly where this mindset began, but I know that surrounding myself with strong and motivated people is a big help. And when I say “surround”, I include in this definition books I read, podcasts I listen to, and certain people I follow through social media. It doesn’t have to be someone that is right there next to me for me to learn from them. I create the reality I live in, and despite not being personal friends with someone like Joe Rogan or Tim Ferriss, I learn from them and their content all the time.
You have to take responsibility for your life and your circumstances. Yes, things get handed to you that you never wanted, but that happens to everyone, so get over it. Accept that this is your burden to bear and start working to change it. No matter how badly you think the deck is stacked against you, there is someone, somewhere, that has had it worse. And in fact, there are plenty of examples of those who have had it worse and gone on to accomplish great things. In this case, “great things” could be things that many define as “typical” such as graduating high school or moving out of a crushing poverty. Other examples would be starting a successful company and getting bought out, or becoming a doctor despite having dyslexia.
Regardless of your circumstances, you can develop the capacity to be happy, optimistic and positive. Think of it as a muscle that you slowly grow and develop. As long as you continue to flex it, it will continue to grow. You need to recognize small progress, a slight shift in the right direction. Be cognizant of the incremental progress that you can make. Reward yourself, at least verbally, for wins and progress.
Personal discipline is a big portion of it as well, and I do my best to function in a manner consistent with the structure I have set up for my life. You need to understand that things could always be worse, and that no matter what your current life circumstances are you should be grateful. Easier said than done, I understand.
Let me give you an example, since the first of this year, the following has occurred in my life:
–my sales production at work has dropped way off compared to previous years.
–I learned my job may be in jeopardy
–my dad had major surgery
–I close friend is suffering from dementia, and his wife had not asked for any help until he fell and got injured. No one knew how bad things were until then.
–my Mom moved and I had to assist with quite a bit of that process
–my sister moved and I helped with that, including the movers not showing up on moving day
–my in-laws are moving out of the city, and so are my wife’s grandparents as well. Yup, helped with this as well.
–I was very close to suffering from heat stroke during a hike in the Grand Canyon
Do I sit and dwell on these things? Am I unhappy, or “less happy: than I was at this time last year? Not. Even. Close. A lot of good things and a few great things have happened, and these are the things I focus on. I spent time and energy thinking about the positive things, the progress I’m making, etc.
Here is the secret that not everyone understands:
It takes the same amount of energy to dwell on the good or the bad. But only one of those will make you happy.
It true, and I can’t stress enough that it is within your power to find the positive in any situation. As anyone who knows Jocko Willink will tell you, his answer to every problem is this: “Good”. He doesn’t waste time dwelling, feeling sorry for himself, feeling cheated by life or fate. It is what it is…as the saying goes.
You don’t need to be a Navy SEAL like Jocko to have the right mindset. I cross paths with average people every day that shrug off bad news and stay positive. You can too. You just need some practice.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.